Thursday, September 21, 2017

September 21 – “Hats”

I had a chance to wear my pastor hat briefly yesterday morning.  I worked on Sunday’s teaching from the time I woke up, about 5:30 or so, to around ten.  Then I had to kind of slap the Dad hat on top of the pastor one when Nathan and April stopped by to talk with us. 

When they left I switched over to the disaster relief hat, and we headed to Alvin to check on our Seaside team that has been working there every Wednesday since the storm.  I finally heard the “Why Alvin?” story.  Seems our team leader Stephanie was driving up Highway Six, praying for just the right place God wanted the, to focus ministry on.  In Alvin, they stopped at a red light and prayed again.  Then they saw a police officer, and in a flash if insight decided to follow him.  He apparently went inside a bank, so they followed him right in and asked him where he thought the most help was needed in Alvin.  He directed them to this particular neighborhood.  Sounds like a God thing, doesn’t it?  Yep.

I finally met the pastor of the local church there in the Alvin community.  I have spoken to Pastor Domingo on the phone several times, and we have texted information back and forth, so it was good to put a face with the voice.  I let him know that we now had access to some work teams through the North American Mission Board’s Send Relief organization that could help folks in the neighborhood much out their homes.  He invited me to join him in a drive through the community to look for people working.  He showed me the church and the issues it had.  Contractors he has talked to have told him it needs some more structural posts in the center of the building.  Perhaps the biggest concern is that the sub-floor on one side of the room appears to have begun a collapse.  The entire side of the room slants downward from the center.  Not sure what it will take to get that fixed.  Next door to the church was a family hard at work on their house.  Here was a home that needs serious help with being cleared out and gutted.  However, they also need a loving hand. 

On the one hand, here at around four weeks after the storm they have still not been able to remove everything from their home, much less get the moldy walls down.  Why?  The husband and provider works in Afghanistan and had to get special permission from his company to come home for a few days to help.  He is only there for a few more days before he has to fly back.  Any heavy lifting that has been done began a day or so ago when he finally got home and a family member was able to come help.  It will stop when he leaves, because like him, everyone else in the family has to return to work.  He asked me if I wanted to see the inside of the house, so I joined him on a personalized tour.

The house itself is in really bad shape.  There are even holes in the floor that they had nailed pieces of wood over because they had nearly fallen through.  Lots of furniture was still inside the house, with belongings piled high on top to try to keep them out of the flood waters as they rose.  All evidence of the need for some serious, strong help.  As we entered one particular room I could sense a change in my host’s demeanor.  A large piece of plywood separated the room from the rest of the house.  A hospital bed piled with belongings was the focal point, and the other bedroom furniture appeared intact, carefully protected in place.  Sports memorabilia from the Rockets and Astros still hung on the walls.  With a tear in his eye my guide told his story.  Their son had been in an accident and was confined to bed.  This bed.  They had cared for him for ten years here in their home, and about a month ago the son died.  They are reluctant to let anyone else touch the room’s contents until they have a chance to go through everything, piece by piece.  Hence the need for a loving hand as well.

The family does have a very large yard, so they would like for a team to help carry out the precious belongings and place it in the yard so they will have a chance to go through it as they can.  I understand that desire.  I recall the days we spent after Hurricane Ike, in the front yard of our house and in the garage of the homes we stayed in, painstakingly sorting through “new discoveries” of our own precious memories.  I am praying that the team to be sent over will be gentle and caring as well as burly and strong.  And I’m praying that Pastor Domingo will be able to find some more specific homes that are willing to accept the help that is being offered to them. 

I have to say that I am very proud of our Seaside Team.  They fed 150+ people.  In some pretty extreme heat.  Some they gave out plates to while parked on a street corner.  Where it was pretty hot.  Then they moved to the parking lot of the local washateria and gave out some more.  Oh and did I mention that it was hot?  And then they hand-delivered meals to three different apartment complexes. They also gave out cleaning supplies and personal toiletries like soap and toothpaste and deodorant.  Oh and hugs.  They handed out hugs freely, too.  Sweaty hugs full of love, because, you see, it was hot.  96 degrees hot.  On their way to the site Stephanie told me it was threatening rain, so she prayed that God would send his sun to shine down all day.  It would be enough to ask for a nice cloud cover and a cool breeze with no actual rain.  He often does get specific when he answers prayer.

Next Wednesday the plan is to continue with food and supply distribution, but they will also bring an extra trailer with clothes and a few more volunteers to man it.  The people are beginning now to ask about clothing, so it is time to initiate that portion of the relief effort. 

On our way home we stopped by the Boyer’s house in Dickinson to check on them.  As we drove up a wrecker was loading up Rita’s car.  The insurance company had just officially totaled it.  Don is already driving a rental, and she is now fourth in line for a rental, but until then she is figuring out “alternative means” of transportation.  She has a great attitude, though.  One would think she just might know Jesus …

Different hat.  While at Rita’s I got a call from the fire department.  Two of our crews had just been on a pretty horrific accident call.  Trish was just letting me know so I could check in on them when I can to make sure they are effectively processing it.  I’ll have to keep my ear to the ground on that one.

Switch hats.  We stopped by Sam’s and WalMart on the way home to pick up some specific supplies uncovered by the Alvin team. 

Switch hats.  After a shower and some supper I settled in next to my wife to try to stay awake long enough to watch some of the Astros game.  That was … a full day.

2 Peter 3:8-9 says, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Father, be with the relief team sent to the Alvin home today.  Endow them with supernatural strength laced with supernatural compassion as they deal with that family.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

September 20 – “A surprise resource”

I made a trip to downtown Galveston yesterday.  I wanted to introduce myself to the on-site coordinator of the North American Mission Board (NAMB).  That’s one of the national hurricane relief agencies operating with Galveston as a base.  I wanted to ask about where they were sending volunteers, what supplies they had available, and how far they were going in their assistance.  The last question was answered rather quickly.  They are here for phase one operations only.  They primarily help empty out and muck out homes, then spray them for mold.  There is apparently an entirely different division that helps with rebuilding homes.  He didn’t know if that division was going to be deployed in this area or not.  He did ask me to send him any addresses I might encounter of homes that still need to be mucked out.  He has a glut of volunteers scheduled, and he wants to use them in this South of Houston area as much as possible.  As I was leaving he gave me a tour of their two shower trailers, a freezer trailer, and an ice machine that have all been set up to provide for the volunteers.

They are not at all set up as a distribution center for supplies or food or clothing.  Well, except for Shockwave, the mold killing product they are using.  He said they will give water bottles full of the stuff with strict instructions on usage (one fourth of a bottle to a gallon of water).  Oh, and on the shower trailer tour he remarked that they had received an entire pallet of dehumidifiers and rolled roofing. 

I went from there over to fire station one to check in with the guys on duty since I was so close.  And that’s when I found out a fairly well-kept secret.  Come to find out there are several fire fighters who live here on the Island who have water damage in their homes.  Now, understand, these are the guys who spent the first few days after the storm on duty or volunteering to help with rescues.  Then they transitioned into creating work crews to tear out the moldy sheetrock and flooring in other fire fighter homes.  All the while, they never bothered to let on that their own homes had received some damage as well.  See, parts of the Island did receive heavy rainfall, and depending on the drainage capacity of individual neighborhoods, some parts did experience flooding.  But these fire fighters never told anyone about their damage because they considered it minor in comparison to what the folks on the mainland were undergoing.  Minor?  OK.  But still a significant drain on their personal time and resources.  Two of the guys were apparently still trying to get their homes to dry out enough to continue with repairs.  They needed a … dehumidifier.  Ding.  Ding.  Ding.  My old brain may be deteriorating, but even I could make that connection.

I put in a call to the NAMB guy I had just spent an hour or so with.  When he heard that a request was coming in for a dehumidifier that two first responders could share, he would have none of it.  He insisted that they each be given one, with no strings attached.  He was even willing to deliver them to the station himself.  I offered to do it for him, since I could take them directly to the guys’ homes that needed them, and he was appreciative.  I think deep down he really just wanted to go visit a fire station.  What little boy doesn’t love a fire truck?  I assured him he would be more than welcome, but in the end his tight schedule forced him to comply with my offer. 

I made contact with each of the fire fighters, and dropped off the dehumidifiers.  They were both humbled and excited.  The plan is to make the machines available to whoever might need them now, them to store them at the fire fighters’ union hall for when the next “event” occurs.  And it will occur.  Leave it to our fire fighters to be prepared for the future.

2 Peter 1:10-11 says, “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Father, once again you amaze me with the way you meet needs before we even know what they will be.  Thank you for that.  Amen.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

September 19 – “A very Freddy day”

Yesterday was a very Freddy kind of day.  For those of you who don’t know, Freddy is one of our three dogs.  Heidi, Fritz, and Freiderecke.  See why we call her Freddy?  There’s actually more to the story of her name, but you’ll have to check my blog posts from about a year ago to get the full impact.  "Impact."  Yep, that’s the right word.  We have had Freddy since the Day of the Impact … the day Chris hit her with the car. 

So Freddy had the kind of day that most dogs can only dream of.  Oh, it began harmlessly enough.  Cavorting in the back yard with Fritz and the German Shepherd that lives behind us.  Heidi generally avoids such meaningless encounters, preferring instead to remain in the air conditioned comfort of her bed.  Later in the morning, though, Freddy was lounging on a pillow in one of the recliners when she suddenly leapt from her perch and raced to the front door.  And the barking began.  Well, she is a small dog, so it would probably be more accurate to say the yipping began.  Fritz followed within seconds, and a few seconds after that we realized that the problem was making his way up the driveway … the postman cometh.

Now here’s the thing about the postman.  Early that morning … I mean, really early.  It was exactly 7:48 a.m. in fact … I was startled to glance out the front window to see a mail lady delivering something to out mailbox.  I thought surely I was dreaming, but no.  She had sure enough made a mail delivery before 8 a.m.  Amazing.  Of course, we had had no mail delivered at all on Saturday, and it was obvious she was making up for that, but it was still an all-time record.  But back to the Freddy encounter.  She was doing her job, rather admirably, I must say, when this second postman made his appearance.  But something happened that served to not only disconcert her, but in fact threaten her entire sense of canine protocol.  The mailman … came inside.  That’s right, he didn’t just rattle the little box by the door and turn quickly to make his escape.  He opened the door and came inside.  And we seemed to be perfectly all right with it.  The yipping stopped and the sniffing began.  And the wiggling.  And the tail wagging.  And the licking.  Within seconds Freddy transitioned from protection mode to full on consorting with the mailman.

OK, I know you all know by now that the mailman was my son Kel.  He had been given a route near here, so he came over to have lunch in air conditioned comfort instead of sitting in the sauna box of a mail truck.  But did Freddy’s friends and neighbors know?  And would they be forgiving and accepting when next she sounds the postman alarm?  Or would there be only choruses of “Hah.  That’s the mailman-lover over at the Vaughan house.  Can’t trust her.  I’m not barking until I see the blue of his shirt for myself.”  Sigh.  Poor Freddy. 

2 Peter 1:5-9 says, “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Father, help me to be like Freddy, ready to accept into friendship even her sworn enemy.  And thank you for a bit of a respite in our day yesterday.  I had no idea how much rest I really did need.  Could you grease some wheels in the doctor department so I can get an appointment and get this neck checked out?  Amen.

Monday, September 18, 2017

September 18 – “Playing flood”

Our Lake Jackson connections have finally begun to kick in as our friends across the San Luis Pass begin to return to their homes.  Yesterday after church we helped one of our Seasiders load up a truck with bleach and other supplies.  They were heading to help out two specific families, but they were also redistributing some of the supplies we had into a church over in Lake Jackson.  It’s always best to get the resources as close as possible to the people who actually need then.

Chris showed me a photo the other day.  Christina had just sent a text with a picture of Noa playing with her doll house toys.  Not such a big deal, right?  That’s what little girls do.  But in this case, it was the accompanying commentary that made the image come alive.  She had the toy furniture all lined up in a row.  Why, you may ask?  “My kitchen flooded,” she responded.  Her older brothers had spent some time doing some mucking out, and they had seen some of the devastation in their trips to relief stations to deliver and pick up supplies for neighbors.  Do three year olds pay attention?  Oh, yes. 

Guess I’m cutting things short today.  I have to prepare for a funeral this morning.  A very sweet lady who often came to our home group years ago died.  Her daughter Kathy played an important role in Josh’s life as she gave him one of his first jobs in a coffee shop they ran.  Please pray for that family as you recall them this morning.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

Father, would you walk with Kathy and Trish and all of their family as they make their way through their grieving process.  Amen.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

September 17 – “Man Down Two”

Well, after Lauren’s announcement the other day that she was Seaside’s fire “man down” as a result of the storm relief efforts (she was sick from the mold exposure), I have to announce that it looks like I am Man Down Two.  I have officially reached my lift limit for my back and neck and knee.  The pain got to be bad enough that I finally agreed to call for a neurosurgeon appointment.  That would be for my neck.  Tingling, itchy streaks shooting from my neck up into my ear.  Very weird feeling.  Problem is, I wake up at night and realize I have scratched at my ear enough to make it bleed.  Last time I saw him for my lower back he basically said I should try to live with it and avoid surgery unless it got too difficult to walk.  But he added that if I ever had issues arise with my neck that I was to give him a call.  The knee?  I don’t know.  Maybe if I just rest it …

We did manage a little bit of an adventure yesterday.  We drove to League City to see Jachin play a baseball game.   Well, two games.  It was a doubleheader.  Now, if anyone tried to leave the Island yesterday via the causeway, you know that traffic was backed up onto the bridge.  Construction had everyone funneling into one lane.  But hark.  The voice of Google Siri came to our rescue.  She suggested an alternate route through.  With some difficulty (we made a wrong turn or two) we finally located a little known road that led us right to Highway 3.  It enabled us to avoid the treacherous roadwork that has already put a crack in our windshield and apparently hundreds of others.  It was an adventure to us, though.  Especially the part where we laughed at the many other vehicles who couldn’t understand Siri’s route suggestions. 

We did make it to the games.  And was it ever hot.  The field had no shade, either.  And we were far enough away from the Island that there was not much of a breeze.  The boys were absolutely dragging all through the second game.  Even Chris almost threw up.  The guys did pretty well, though.  Jachin’s team won one and lost one, but in their loss they came back from a 9 run deficit and made the score a bit closer.

Oh, and I did something I have never done before.  I dropped my cell phone.  Well, I have dropped my phone before, but this time when it hit … the screen cracked.  Not shattered like some I have seen, though.  It is just a crack across the top.  So now I have to poll my friends and family who have preceded me in cracked-screen-dom to see what I’m supposed to do next. 

I almost made it through a whole post here without a comment on the relief efforts taking place.  But I do have one thing.  We were going to stop by some folks’ houses in Dickinson to check on them, but we were both feeling woozy from the heat, so we headed home.  As we drove down the freeway through Dickinson, however, we glanced to our right and saw the massive appliance graveyard.  Stoves, refrigerators, washers, dryers completely filling the parking lot of a former furniture store.  Absolutely sobering as to its sheer magnitude.  I wasn’t able to get a photo since we were on the freeway, but if you want to see a representation of the destruction from the flood, drive I45 through Dickinson and look to the west.

2 Peter 1:3 says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

Father, thank you for protecting those boys as they played in the heat yesterday.  Speaking of protecting, be with the folks who have the responsibility of gathering and disposing of all those appliances.  That is an unsung and absolutely necessary job.  Amen.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

September 16 – “And then what?”

We don’t always get to hear back from the people we help.  Here is one case in which we did.  A bit of background first.  One of our Seasiders, Sharon, often takes her granddaughter Elena to the Palm Beach water play area at Moody Gardens.  As five-years-olds often do, Elena made friends with another youngster and the two became regular water park playmates.  And that meant Sharon and the youngster’s mother became water park friends, talking together as the kids splashed in the water. 

After Hurricane Harvey hit, Sharon made a call and checked on her water park friend.  She arranged to take them some supplies.  And while on that supply delivery visit she also met the mom’s sister.  Her house was also flooded, and she needed some help as well.  Sharon made a phone call to make the request. 

About that I was fielding a series of messages from Servant of Nations Church in Houston, a group that has stayed in Seaside’s retreat center.  Seems they had a group of folks from out of town who were wanting to do some work helping a family.  They were wondering if I knew of any place.  Doesn’t take long for the need to meet headlong with the provision when the Holy Spirit is involved in the process.  The group was sent out and the work was done. 

Now that’s usually as far as the story goes in cases like this.  We don’t often get - or need – feedback from the folks we are able to help.  But in this case, Sharon was involved.  In her gift of hospitality mode, she followed up on the situation and spoke with the recipient on the phone.  Here are some of Sharon’s words: “She was sobbing with gratitude towards the group that came and helped her today.  She was overwhelmed by their love, their praying for her, and generosity to her.”  Later she added, “Her sister also called me to thank us for sending help.  She said she hardly knew us but felt that we were family sent to her.  I expect to have opportunities to get to know the family better and share our faith more as I do.  Very sweet ladies.  I will be going to check on them.”  And then, “So thankful we made the connection for her help.  Thank you.” 

No, Sharon.  Thank you.  It was your heart for ministry and openness to the Holy Spirit long before the need arose that allowed this whole event to happen.  God was making connections long before we knew they would be needed.  And in Sharon’s final words to me in that text: “Yes, our God is like that!”  Yes, He is.

1 Peter 5:14 says, “Greet one another with a kiss of love.  Peace to all of you who are in Christ.”

Father, thank you for Sharon and Elena and most of all for your Holy Spirit, working to make connections with people “just because.”  Let more “just because” connections cause your work to spread in this crisis and beyond.  Amen.

Friday, September 15, 2017

September 15 – “Closer to home”

We did something rather unusual yesterday.  We decided to deal with some storm damage a little closer to home.  Well, a lot closer to home.  We finally got around to cleaning up the storm damage around our house.  Fortunately it was minor and confined to our yard.  The trees on one side of the house were stripped bare of leaves and several branches were down.  The biggest tree itself is in our neighbor’s yard.  The bulk of the branches and leaves and hackberries, however, managed to find their way into ours.  That’s what Chris attacked after she did her weekly Thursday housecleaning in preparation for Home Group Bible Study.  Meanwhile I cranked up the lawn mower.  Now we did mow one other time after the storm, but we never did edge or use the weed eater.  No time then.  It was overdue now.  Once I finished that task I trimmed off a few of the broken branches still barely attached to the sycamore trees.  And I confess that I also trimmed the oleander bush in the front yard.  We have to do that periodically when it hinders our line of vision as we back the car out of the driveway.  Mrs. Betty of the Oleander Society watches me like a hawk, so I have to a little sneaky.  I can’t keep track of the “proper time” to trim.  I was headed to the back yard to lop off a few more offending branches when Chris insisted that I was finished.  Guess I looked a bit spent. 

Now, I did field a phone call from Seaside’s windstorm insurance agent about the ceiling leaks that showed up after the storm.  Their adjuster will be contacting us in the next five or six days about coming out to assess the damage.  He apologized for his tardiness in calling.  Something about their being swamped with claims lately.  Get it?  “Swamped”?  Still too soon?  I also got a call informing me that the remaining two air conditioning units in the retreat center are just about done.  Out.  Kaput.  Fortunately, we have a fund we have been trying to build up to deal with just such eventualities.  Lynn, our resident AC guy is going to get the units ordered and installed for a pretty good price. 

Another issue of repair around the church has come up.  With all of the loaded to the hilt dolly and gruntingly laden foot traffic bringing supplies into the building, our ramp into the worship center has developed a problem.  We now have a speed dip on the way up.  A few of the boards have slipped out of place and need to be repaired or replaced.  Or the whole ramp needs to be replaced.  I don’t know which.  We’ll get a few of our carpenter-type handymen to take a look at it on Sunday. 

OK, so much for the minor stuff “at home.”  I think the plan for today is for Chris and I to head back to the church and get it set up for worship on Sunday.  There will still be supplies everywhere when you come, so find a seat next to that case of bleach.  Get to know it.  Invite it to join you on a visit you are about to make to Dickinson, or League City, or Santa Fe, or Hitchcock, or LaMarque, or Alvin, or Lake Jackson.  You’ll be surprised at the ability of a case of bleach to be a wingman.  Opens all kinds of doors among a very large segment of our county population about now. 

1 Peter 5:10-11 says, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

Father, help us stay on top of our issues “at home” so we can better spend our time matching supplies to the right homes.  Amen.